30 Semi-Finalists Selected For The Afri-Plastics’ First-Strand Accelerating Growth Challenge

Press Release

Nov. 11, 2021, 10:58 a.m.

Points to note

  • The Afri-Plastics Challenge is delivered by UK innovation and challenge prize expert Nesta Challenges and funded by the Government of Canada
  • 30 semi-finalists will be supported with grants and capacity building expertise to develop and prove the effectiveness of their solution in pursuit of the three final prizes of £1,000,000, £750,000, and £500,000 in March 2023
  • The Afri-Plastics Challenge recognizes the most innovative ideas in the plastic recycling space across Sub-Saharan Africa

Nesta Challenges has announced the semi-finalists of Accelerating Growth, the first strand of the Afri-Plastics Challenge. The Prize aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement.

In July 2021, the competition's first strand, Accelerating Growth, announced a call for applications from small and medium-sized enterprises across Sub-Saharan Africa that have a scalable solution or proof of concept that improves plastic waste management in a socially and environmentally responsible way. With mismanaged waste as one of the key drivers of marine plastic pollution, waste management systems throughout the region are at a crucial point in their evolution. The development of new innovative processes and systems is imperative to improve the detrimental impact of waste pollution on the environment.

Through their collective voice, the Afri-Plastics Challenge Judging Panel reviewed each application and selected 30 semi-finalists from across Sub-Saharan Africa - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, to move forward in the next phase of the challenge.

Each semi-finalist solution addresses the reduction of plastic waste within the wider plastics value chain by reducing marine plastic litter in ways that aim to positively impact their communities. Buy-back centers target low-income groups in their communities and allow individuals to sell their recyclable materials to these centers for recycling and receive payment for these items. Some semi-finalists use digital technology to facilitate the booking and collection of waste in exchange for a cash reward and send it to users via mobile money or in the form of health funds, health insurance, or coding classes on the same day. There is also a growing list of companies that convert unsorted plastic waste into clean gaseous fuel through a thermal cracking process of distillation and compression that creates no emissions, residue, or pollution to the environment.

Constance Agyeman, Director of International Development, Nesta Challenges, said: “Only 12 percent of the 17 million tonnes of plastic pollution generated in sub-Saharan Africa each year is recycled - the rest is dumped, buried, or burnt. The impact this has on communities, the health of individuals, and the precious sub-Saharan ecosystems are colossal. Africa’s innovators are already working on home-grown solutions, but to have the maximum impact, they need meaningful support to scale. The 30 semi-finalists demonstrate that the long-term solutions to Africa’s plastic pollution dilemma are waiting in the wings, now is the time they take center stage.

Edward Mungai, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Climate Innovation Centre & Afri-Plastics Challenge Judge, said: "I am so amazed at the quality of submissions for the Afri-Plastics Challenge, a truly remarkable undertaking against a backdrop of what has been a very challenging year for all. My admiration goes to all our applicants who have worked so hard to prepare their entries for the Challenge.

What’s next for the Semi-Finalists?

In November 2021, the 30 semi-finalists will take part in a Digital Activation Workshop where they will be introduced to a capacity-building support package that will include expert mentoring in the following key areas: Innovation, Plastics, Market-Orientation, and Narrative-Building. This will be followed by six weeks of further capacity-building support with these mentors to help consolidate plans for scaling solutions.

The semi-finalists will also be given £10,000 each to support the development and validation of their scaling plans. At the end of this phase, they will be required to submit a detailed scaling plan and a pitch video for evaluation by the judges against the criteria. At the end of January 2022, 15 finalists will be selected to move forward in the Challenge and continue their journey to win one of the three final prizes.

For a full list of finalists, visit

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About Nesta Challenges

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills, and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society. We've spent over 20 years working out the best ways to make change happen through research and experimenting, and we've applied that to our work in innovation policy, health, education, government innovation, and the creative economy and arts.

Within Nesta, Nesta Challenges, based in London, in the United Kingdom, exists to design and run challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions. We shine a spotlight where it matters and incentivize people to solve these issues. We are independent supporters of change to help communities thrive and inspire the best placed, most diverse groups of people worldwide to take action.

We support the boldest and bravest ideas to become real and seed long-term change to advance society and build a better future for everyone. We are part of the innovation foundation, Nesta. We are challengers. We are innovators. We are game-changers.

About Government of Canada

As part of the commitment to reduce marine plastics globally, the Government of Canada has launched a project to improve plastic management in sub-Saharan Africa; the Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement. The Afri-Plastics Challenge places particular emphasis on promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. While not limited by gender, the challenge encourages women and girls to participate by submitting their solutions.


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